How many times must a man look up
How many years can a mountain exist
-- Bob Dylan, "Blowin' In The Wind", 1962
How can I tell you now, Andrea, on this, the one-year anniversary of your unexpected exit from this horrific world of misogyny and racism, among other atrocities, how can I tell you what your writing has meant to me, and what you, courageous author, mean to me, only one grief-filled year after you are gone?
How can I express in words of simple gratitude the gifts you have given to me, to us--the human community? These gifts, your books, contain the keys to radically, lovingly, and, (dare one think it) permanently ending the locked-door world of women's systematised suffering. Can we still dream of a humanity that does not require women and men to be less or other than fully humane?
What you did in writing no one else has done for me. No one else I have encountered has written so directly, so unflinchingly, from the body. Your books contain your particular body of knowledge, but with an insight and wisdom deeply informed by the invisibilised lives of so many others, who shudder to tell their stories, and who will never write down what happened to them. This visceral knowledge is not abstracted and intellectualised into mental concepts, which academically well-educated folk love to verbally toss back and forth over tables that never see the light of day. Education is important to me; I spent eight privileged years in undergraduate school. Learning about life is necessary, but abstracting or denying the harm and suffering real people live with is callous at best, malicious at worst, inside or outside the academy. I wish more of your work was taught, with deep understanding of what you were saying.
Your knowledge is fired directly out of a kiln of torment and tears into palpable truths, felt, experienced, known by the mind, yes, but also by the heart that bleeds until it dies. In your body, you held truths no one without unfathomable courage wanted or wants to face in this era of a lonely, desperate individualism that ignores, and perhaps cannot bear, the collective suffering of the masses.
Andrea, it is now April 9, 2006. You have been spared one whole year, dear feminist warrior, of men and women arguing for rights to do things patriarchy demands men and women do to themselves in the first place. Another year in which men, predominantly, maintain and enforce those compulsory and mandated choices through simple interpersonal methods: expressed desire, rejection, ridicule, brutality; and complex systems and industries: prostitution, pornography, cosmetic surgery.
I hope you didn't live to know that in suburbia, there are strip-aerobics classes in gyms, and U.S. talk shows discussing to what degree middle-class heterosexual women should modify their bodies so they look more like the women used by men in pornography. Is it worse that women and men with webcams make themselves into pornography because they experience it as uniquely desirable and politically empowering? What power and desire is this, to become a sexualised thing for someone else, or, as sadly, for oneself? Surely this is not the power your generation of feminists had in mind when dreaming of an end to male supremacy. Once upon a time, the promise of political self-determination assumed that women and men might dream beyond the confines and limitations of gender and race, rather than purposefully eroticising and getting defensive about those same dehumanising parameters.
Racist patriarchy has won, it seems, if women want what white male supremacy requires from them, while declaring it "meaningful feminist choice". What meaning does feminism have if it is "feminist" to be used callously or compulsively by men who trade money for sex? Whose interests are served when it is now called "feminist" to be made into a flattened, fetishised image for men's (or women's) sexual viewing pleasure? What does feminism stand for when it no longer demands an end to all forms, manifestations, and expressions of male dominance and control over women's human lives? If women have no choice but to be politically female, and call all choices to be politically female "free", then patriarchy has indeed won.
That is what I learned from you, and I won't forget it. Your books are my political life-sustaining broth in a world where most books published are the spiritual-intellectual equivalent of toxic water. My spirit is strengthened by your passionate, poetic, informed, incisive descriptions of realities people know and instantly banish from their minds. Your work is the body of knowledge that those who seek "the good life" in patriarchy must not pay close attention to if they seek uncomplicated comfort. (Not that the materially comfortable are actually at ease).
Some of us, not just a few but not nearly enough, with material means and access to resources, do not seek "the good life" in patriarchy. We know such a life depends on the ignored destruction of humanity, including of heterosexual, lesbian, and gay lives, poor white people's lives, the lives of people of Colour and others who are ethnically despised, the lives of Third World women who do more work each day than the U.S. white middle class can possibly imagine. We know a society that is not radically activist will help ensure that all women will be relegated the task of being politically female indefinitely. We know biological determinism, also called sociobiology, is one of patriarchal men's self-serving excuses for maintaining a political system no gene or hormone could possible encode or regulate.
Your books are now in my blood, Andrea, coursing through me, sustaining my rage and compassion. You taught me those can be the same spiritual force for a feminist, which is to say a humanitarian who sees men--and women--as human.
Most caring men I know don't understand that definition. They have absorbed the liberal to conservative media's distortions of feminism and feminists. And so, with regard to women's political freedom, they are complacent. I feel despair and outrage as otherwise very active and relatively patriarchally benign men become utterly impotent, passive and speechless, when challenged to confront other men who are less benign: more predatory, more misogynist. I plead with them, as a Jew and as a feminist, about the crimes of the good people, about how any degree of passivity in the face of atrocity is perpetuating that atrocity. Men, generally, cannot (or will not) hear me. Because I speak the truths of radical feminism, my words register as a foreign language in men's ears trained to only hear what non-feminist men say. That your work infuses my speech means it, like you, will too often be misheard, or rendered incomprehensible to those who cling to the benefits of privilege and the compromises of denial. Your living speech was the language of unrepressed social reality, of undenied political truth.
Yesterday I was informed that a white male dentist has been charged with injecting his own semen onto the tongues of his female patients. (See: Former N.C. Dentist Indicted on Seven Counts of Assault.)
How inhumane does humanity have to get before we recognise sexist-racist atrocity as such? What remedies exist to help us out of this nightmare of myriad forms of misogynist exploitation, rape, and ethnic bigotry? The answer is blowing in the winds of your words, Andrea. The answer is blowing in those winds.
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